Material Identity

Kelsey Higgins
Oct 17, 2014 4:39PM

For my curator project, I have chosen to investigate the topic of material identity and the perception of substances in artwork.  Inspired by some of Rauschenberg’s pieces, the collection is very sculpture based, with pieces created in recent years. 

Material identity involves the way in which we perceive a material or substance via our five senses. For example, metals are often perceived as cold and shiny, while textiles are perceived as warm and more fluid. A material can also be perceived through associations. Metals can be seen to be precise and sterile, wood can be perceived as natural and conveys ideas of craftsmanship and friendly quality, while gold implies wealth and luxury. 

Keeping this idea in mind when selecting, I attempted to vary the materials used in each of the pieces. The idea of this collection is to have the viewer rethink the identity of their materials, rethink how the characteristics affect their perception on a piece of art.  I would love to have this be a tactile exhibition. If the viewer were to have the ability to physically touch and experience the materials of each (or at least some) of the works, it would emphasize the idea the collection better as a whole.

One artist that I would like to focus on is Sandra Shashou, and her beautiful manipulations of china and pottery. It was difficult to choose simply one work of hers for the collection, because I felt that she showcased the idea of material identity so well. In Harlequin Edwardian Vintage Fine Bone China with Yellow and Pink Roses, she utilized the brightly colored china with the jagged edges to create a fluid moving piece on the canvas.  

I hope that anyone who views the collection goes away with an idea of what material can mean to a piece. What a material signals and how it is intended to be perceived can sometimes be even more important than its purely technical properties.

Kelsey Higgins